Why is photography vital? There are so many methods of creative expression, whether painting, drawing, clay sculpting, glass works, tattoo artistry, writing, ballet, opera, musical instruments, or singing, to name several. For me, photography is an opportunity for the artist to capture a single moment in time or the soul of a subject by looking through the view finder and capturing something meaningful. A photographer captures not only a moment, but the essence of sensation – i.e., what one may be feeling prior to the click of the shutter. That’s it! Click. Click. Click. On many occasions, the moment was so fast that the only snapshot you have is in your heart.
Sometimes you come close to portraying what’s in your heart with the click of the shutter, but even though the shot didn’t capture that single most important second, chances are you might still have a good picture. What’s in your heart at that moment and then trying to produce that capture is another thing all together; searching for that elusive, perfect shot that can make or break a career can quickly become the bane of one’s existence – i.e., the white whale that sinks your ship and kills you in the quest for perfection. A photographer’s work is often critiqued wholeheartedly – and that discussion can be one of admiration or distaste. You can have an Academy Award winning picture, or one worthy of National Geographic, and / a prestigious publication, and, yet, there will always, always, always, be someone who does not think your picture is worth .02 cents. My opinion, keep on clicking away.
So, this brings me to this: What makes one a photographer in the age of digital media? Career photographers are often classified by their field of expertise, such as:
- Private investigators
- Crime scenes
Career photographers often focus specifically on one of the above (or a multitude of others not listed), but does this mean that if one is a landscape photographer, one cannot also become a portrait photographer or a fashion photographer? As a society, have we taken what is a priceless opportunity to record a memory, and divided that into too many categories? What is the main reason for taking a photograph? Isn’t a photograph an opportunity for the photographer to share his or her soul with the world? Franco Pagetti stated it best regarding the freedom of the press: “I don’t think press freedom has been eroding in this time period. What is different, however, is the political and social engagement of the photographer. I think there is more of an interest in being visible and winning prizes than in telling stories. There are also more photographers. When I began, the number of photographers that I would meet was very small. Today, everyone takes photos with their cameras or phones. The internet has helped with visibility but it has made everyone a photographer.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have an Instagram account myself and I see thousands upon thousands of accounts which individuals and/ or companies post their work. Personally, I like posting some of my pictures on Instagram. I enjoy it. I have received some pretty good feedback, made some wonderful contacts, and to my surprise gained a pretty good following which I only see growing over the years. I also have had some backlash as well, but I take it in stride. (After all, someone is always going to reduce your work to .02 cents.)
So many social media photos reflect disorder and even human depravity, which makes me wonder how Matthew Brady or Alexander Gardner would react to the innovation which they helped make available to the public. I have enjoyed my learning experiences when it comes to taking pictures. Do I consider myself a photographer? Even though I thoroughly enjoy taking photographs, I still have much to learn about the process of taking photos. This goes back to the opening lines of this entry – i.e., what makes one a photographer? I consider myself a student of photography at the moment. Even with more than 14,000 pictures posted on Instagram, and countless more in my files, I am still learning; I enjoy what I do and how I feel when I take pictures. It is an intimate thing to photograph a subject whether it is a flower or a human being. I give my heart and soul into the capture of each moment. It just so happens I am surrounded by nature, so that is what I photograph.
So, back to social media; there are many individuals who enjoy and love taking photographs, but are not in the main stream media receiving recognition, but yet we enjoy what we do. I have scrolled through hundreds if not thousands of Instagram and Facebook feeds admiring someone else’s works. So, I push the little button that says “like,” and I move on. I leave a short comment if the piece really touched a chord in my heart, but again it costs me nothing to acknowledge someone else’s work.
Photography is an artistic expression emanating from the photographer; I learn something new each day. There are a lot of fantastic, talented, artistic individuals out there, folks, whose work makes me wonder what the origins are of that particular piece. The artist’s process of photography is what I seek, because I always want to better myself. It’s not about fame or glory. It’s about learning and finding oneself and surviving on this planet trying to do some good.